Thursday, September 30, 2010

KISS @ Cricket Pavilion

When I started this post I realized that it was blog #101. I've cracked 100 posts! But since I didn't notice it while I was posting #100, we aren't celebrating.

KISS, back again... feels like just last December 1st they were here. But, we wanted the best, again... right? Yeah, I'm pretty sure we did. I was up for it, but I can't speak for you. But KISS gave us the best, so stop complaining, this blog just started.

It's not until the heat from multiple 30-foot tall fire balls hit you that you realize we don't actually live on the surface of the sun here in sweaty Phoenix, AZ. While that rank smell and the pit stains on the people to my left, right, and rear would suggest otherwise, after the warmth of the flame left my face, the temperature actually resembled "cool". Thanks KISS, for that at least.

Getting to the front of the stage riding a giant floating platform with smoke shooting out from the underside of it while fire is streaming from all sides of you, is one way to start a show. Sure. But there's always the stand-by 'just walk calmly out and quietly say hello into the mic without looking and be all indie' beginning... but you know, for purposes of good photos, I'd take the platform entrance any day! So thank you KISS once again.

Boredom is not allowed at a KISS concert. Even if you don't know the songs, and God knows I don't... You can still have a pretty ridiculous time. I mean, where else can you see a dude in makeup play his guitar between his legs with his ass up in the air? "Is it Creed? That sounds like a Creed concert. Creed is so awesome." ...No, not even at a Creed show can you see that. How about a dude in 10-inch, bedazzled platform shoes doing a jump in the air after having just been doing a one legged side split at the front of the stage? "ABBA??" No, not ABBA. How about a dude who sings, plays guitar, and crawls on hands an knees to shove his face into your camera? Ok... this is all just Paul Stanley, the Star Child as I refer to him... and then there are 3 other guys in the band still! Well, they don't do as much. Let's be honest here. But still, the show is nuts.

Photo-wise, a guy can't ask for much more. "What about a girl, could she ask for more? Sexist!" When did this blog turn into a discussion? Photo-wise, conditions we're superb. Lighting was ample, the stage was giant, and the players really sell to the camera. Honestly, all I could have asked for would have been a little more room in the pit, and maybe some of those sweet platform shoes... as if I don't tower over all the other photogs already... brew-ha-ha-ha!!

Pyrotechnics, giant video screens, animated characters, and a catalog of hit songs... what more do you need? Nothing! So stop asking! Next time KISS is in town, just buy a cheap ticket and go watch them! It's real life. And whether you like them or not, this band is legendary. You might as well go see them before it's too late.

It's rare that I actually get to meet the band... and it was just as rare this time, since it didn't happen... but I got close... shaw!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Fall Frenzy @ Tempe Town Lake

What a bizarre festival, right from the get-go. I was meant to cover the first two days of this event, which would have started with Shinedown and Stone Temple Pilots, however the whole thing was fubar before I even showed up.

Apparently, there was a 'bomb scare' sometime during the night... which involved an unmanned backpack near the front gate... at an outdoor event, at 100 degrees plus even after the sun went down, and drunk people at every turn... maybe someone just dropped their bag?? No.. it's a bomb. The entire front entrance was evacuated and cordoned off... roads were shut... parking was F'ed up... great start. Luckily, I parked about a mile away, not in the direction of the mayhem. But when I showed up, I wasn't allowed in, I had to wait to be brought my credentials. Which took over an hour. So I missed Shinedown's set. Bummer. (That was sarcasm there.) When I finally got in, I hung out with New Times columnist Benjamin Leatherman. We walked around the venue getting an idea of the scope of the event, and got harassed by drunk people the entire trip. It's odd, if you are just HOLDING a camera, people will ask you to take their photo. I still don't get that.

On with the show! I was told to meet a group of people from the event up near the stage to shoot STP... at 10pm. I get there, I wait, I survey. 10:45 passes, and people are launching water bottles at the stage, one guy finally hitting a crash cymbal on STP's drum kit. The photogs are told that the band is on their way, but have missed all sorts of engagements that day prior to the show. At this point, I'd be surprised if I shoot anything this night.

Eventually, the band walks on stage, and start playing like nothing happened. This time around there is no one in the pit with us ready to catch singer, Scott Wieland, should he fall off the stage. Maybe he was cleaned up for the tonight's gig. Yeah, maybe. Maybe I'm a Chinese fighter pilot. I recognized one song during my 2-song stint of shooting... "Wicked Garden"... the one song I know by STP that I can't stand. After song two, I was glad to be on my way home.

The next day would prove to be a better day. The lineup I was scheduled for was Devo, Primus, Sublime (with Rome... some guy who is not the original singer/guitarist), and Weezer. I was pretty psyched actually. Especially to shoot Primus, and be able to actually stay and watch their set. I got in the gates with minimal drama, and only caught the very end of Devo's set. I walked around and grabbed a few crowd shots, hung out in the New Times VIP lounge tent, and then made my way over to the stage for Primus.

I'm not totally current with Primus, so I didn't really know why there were two giant blow-up astronauts on stage with them, but, hey, does it NEED an explanation? When I saw Les Claypool walk on stage, I got pretty happy. What a strange dude... and what a great musician. I got to actually just chill and watch them play "Those Damn Blue Collared Tweakers" from the pit... that was probably the highlight of the entire festival for me. I ran into Randy Johnson again... he was shooting Primus from the pit with me. Neat.

Sublime "with Rome"... I don't know. I could go down a very harsh road if I say too much about this act. But let's just say, they showed up and played. I was pretty shocked by what I saw... and I'm not even a Sublime fan. I don't think many REAL Sublime fans could get behind this. Maybe I'm wrong. But how often does that happen?

The night finally started to wind down for me and Weezer was up next. I was moderately excited to shoot them. I like them... I'm not the biggest fan... but I have a two albums on my iPhone and a bunch of one-off tracks. Rivers came out looking, once again, like Buddy Holly... which, I guess you could attack him for... but that's his look. I'm glad he's back to it. It's what the fans like to see. It's that nerdy look they can relate to.

Weezer's set was unfortunately plagued with technical difficulties right from the start. During the first song, "Hash Pipe" (if I recall correctly), Rivers couldn't hear himself in the monitors... really only evident to the keen listener during the falsetto parts. He was hand-motioning to the sound guy off stage to turn certain things up, and other things down in his monitor so he could hear. Apparently tho, the guy wasn't on the same wavelength. After the song finished, Rivers explained to the crowd that they have a new sound guy and they are still working out the kinks. He went through exactly what he needed done before he started the second song. But during that song, things were still messed up, and Rivers started knocking mics over until he got it right. Bassist Scott Shriner at one point looked even more upset than Rivers when his bass went out. He just stopped playing, and they brought him another bass... which seemed to have a similar problem. He just sort of frowned the entire second song. But he and Rivers both came out of it pretty quickly, and they were on to rocking.

I didn't stay and watch the entire set... I'd had a pretty crazy weekend already at that point... but I'm sure it would have been the highlight to most people's weekend. This entire blog post, I just realized, is pretty normal. I must apologize... I promise something more interesting next time. At least you got to see some photos right?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Paramore (w/ Tegan and Sara) @ Dodge Theatre

Tonight was Paramore with Tegan and Sara opening for the "Honda-Civic-Go-Buy-A-Fucking-Honda-Already-Damn-It!-They-Are-Green-And-Paramore-Drives-Them-What-Are-You-Waiting-For?-You-Can-Buy-One-In-The-Lobby... Tour". Yes, nothing I love more these days than going to a concert and watching car commercials for little, ugly, shit cars that run solely on clean burning Mormon sweat and say a prayer for the car behind it as it's exhaust. No 12 year old girl at this show can afford a Honda... or cares about being green. I'm even slightly older than 12 and I don't even care. I didn't take pictures of all the ads and Honda projections on the walls, cause I thought I'd be replicating their ad campaign. Somewhere... there is a guy wearing prescription-free Oliver Peoples glasses who just said "You might hate the ads, but you just talked about Honda! BOOM! The system works!"

Moving on to the music. Let me just say from the start, sometimes I amaze even myself with how limited my musical scope is. I'd like to think I was pretty diversified, but in reality I just have 16 gigs of Radiohead and Neil Finn on my iPhone. Granted, I do KNOW who both of these bands are. And I know a song or two from each. Both facts I can blame on my friend Thomas. That's all beside the point... the music... the music... yeah. I could tell that these bands know how to play their songs. They were using professional equipment. There was no one whispering in their ears which chord came next. No fake books. It was all in their heads. These bands have really practiced hard. I say well done. And any critic who attacks them, well... they probably don't know what they're talking about.

One strange fact I feel I should point out is how some people photograph so different than they actually look. I photographed Stevie Nicks a while back, and in person I couldn't even recognize her, but in the photos "Oh, that's Stevie Nicks there." It's kind of the opposite for Paramore singer Hayley Williams... when I photographed her before, and tonight as well, I get these shots that 'resemble' her, but they never seem a perfectly accurate representation. Maybe that's just me.

In a weird way, I think I'm less familiar with Paramore, the headliner, than Tegan and Sara. I don't really know what's actually 'weird' about that, but I feel like I've had more chance encounters with T&S over the years. In fact, a few years back, in a fantasy world, I almost had a cartoon show called The Zoo make it on the TV box... Tegan was going to voice one of the main characters on the show. But no, I never actually met her. Still, at that point, I did some research on them. That's just being responsible tho.

Actually, the one song I really knew from the whole night started as I was being escorted out after shooting T&S's set... "Walking with a ghost". Oddly, that was the only thing that sounded a bit off. Maybe it was me... but it sounded just a bit discordant. Like someone was off in the land of their own time signature. But, it still rocked, and the crowd loved it.

Being a photographer is always an interesting experience. Sitting in the hallway before Paramore went on, there was a huge line of fans waiting to meet one of the opening bands who was signing autographs. And amidst the young girl normalcy of the line comes this gangly drunk guy asking for random people to sign his autograph book. "This book has a lot of power" he'd tell the young girls. He even asked a fellow photographer to sign it. And I think he also asked him to write in a powerful message. Talk about pressure. You don't want to let a drunk weirdo at a concert down. I turned away and got my phone out when he was near me. Not because I didn't want to sign, God knows I've just been waiting to sign something with my new signature, but because the only advice I could think of was "Whatever you do, don't let someone throw up in your mouth. Buy Japanese."

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Hanson @ Mesa Center For The Arts

This is a true story, but probably not that funny of a story. Generally, every 2 weeks or a so, I make a list of concerts I'd like to photograph. Usually based mostly on the possible merits of the show itself... performer wise and production wise... and other shows get peppered in as the New Times see fit. I actually asked to photograph the Jonas Brothers this night, and the NT editor replied to me and said I was in for Hanson. Not trying to be rude, but I thought he was being sarcastic. Three of them, three of Hanson... but no. He meant actual Hanson. But in my defense, I have been pretty lazy about looking up shows lately, and I did not even see that Hanson were in town. Now that we got that out of the way, finally... on to the review. Err. On to the "I talk about stuff relating to the show and/or photography... and anything else that pops up." Don't you love grapes?

Honesty up front here... I was pretty indifferent about shooting Hanson. Initially at least, I'd rather have shot the Jonas Brothers, just because it was at a bigger venue, and will have had more stage production... meaning more interesting photos. But, I try not to complain too much. Always complain UP the chain... not... off the chain? OUT from the chain? Anyways... yeah... I can at least dig Hanson. I actually KNOW a song of theirs. Plus, Taylor Hanson plays with James Iha in the super group Tinted Windows... I think that adds a few cool notches.

As expected, the modest sized crowed went absolutely nuts when Hanson took the stage, and the boys gave them just want they wanted. A high energy, poppy rock show. Lots of jumping and singing along, and the odd harmonica why not? I got to the show a little early, just soon enough to see the opening band finish their set. The whole aesthetic of the room was a bit odd. It was filled with a fair share of youngish, elementary/middle school type girls. But also a moderate helping of high school girls... the crowd that 'grew up' listening to Hanson, and are still following the band. There were even some boy people in attendance... but if I'm honest, I felt more macho and mannish mixed in that crowd than any other concert setting. Wink wink, nudge nudge. It didn't help that security guards were all pensioners either. The band that played was like a Hanson-in-training sort of act. Every song had a clever lyric about a girl and a big smile at the end. "No, we love YOU guys!" I felt a bit like I was in an underground Disney bunker testing ground for young girls and new pop acts. I could imagine a room of sweaty, fat execs behind a panel of TV screens scribbling down notes as to what action on stage got an emotional response from the girlfolk in the crowd... and if that boy with the red highlights has a good time too, mark that down Phil.

So... Hanson. Yes. That's why we're all here. What can I say that I haven't already covered? You know what? I was surprised at all the gear Isaac Hanson, eldest, guitarist, had on stage. I mean, that was an impressive pedal board man! And if you know anything about me, that's saying something. Cause when I say something, generally I've said it, myself. Hanson. Pedal board... hmm... I think we're all lucky I don't get paid for this part. Here's a picture!

No, I had a good time. The venue was neat... I didn't really get to look around, but the architecture and the layout (same thing?) was pretty groovy. It's not the most impressive gig size-wise if you're a touring band... but I bet it was a neat visual to drive up to in the tour van. It's not an old shit hole off the side of the 202 freeway, that used to be a Country music hall, now with no A/C, awful lights, and terrible sound. That's for sure.

I think the Hanson boys are doing alright. I don't see a big resurgence in their future, but I think they've got a pretty steady following, and they seem to be able to branch out. Heads on their shoulders and what not. Speaking of heads on shoulders, while I was waiting for Hanson to go on (head firmly attached to my neck)... a peculiar head and shoulder combination parked near me at the back of the venue. It was only TV's Frankie Muniz! He's actually now the drummer in a cracking band here in Phoenix called You Hang Up. I found out later that the paper I freelance for has been slagging him off pretty regularly. I didn't know that at the time... and after the show I ran into him again, so I asked for a photo. Initially, his posse cleared out like I asked if I could perform his yearly rectal exam... and he traded a look of similar unease with his girlfriend. I offered to not take the photo to avoid ruining the evening, but eventually his band came around and they got together for a photo. Had I known the back story, I would have tried to explain that I'm not an egomaniac who publicly attacks people who are trying to further their creative career, just because it doesn't gel with me, man. I say good on ya Frankie. I don't know if were on a first name basis yet, but I did introduce myself with my first name. So... Mr Muniz it is. Anyways, thanks for the pic. If you're out there.